In this guide

  • Review
Finder makes money from featured partners, but editorial opinions are our own.

Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation review: Superb value – with just a dash of style

  • Avatar
Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation
Finder score


Quick verdict: The cheapest new Apple Watch, the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation is the pick of the bunch for most users, unless you’re a heavy-duty athlete or have very specific medical needs.


  • Just as powerful as the 8th Gen model
  • Wide range of styles thanks to band compatibility
  • watchOS 9 is speedy and responsive

  • Smaller display
  • No ECG, no temperature sensor
  • Lacks always-on display

In this guide

  • Review
Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation

The easiest way to describe the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation is that it's the "cheap" one. With Apple no longer selling the now seriously deprecated Apple Watch Series 3, the $399 and upwards Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation is the company's lowest cost smartwatch.

Typically, that would involve a whole host of limitations and features you'd want that were only found in the pricier models – because if there's one thing that Apple likes, it's depleting your wallet of its cold, hard cash.

It seems that the money fairies must have found the warm pocket in Tim Cook's heart.

While it's true that the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation is a slightly lesser model when compared to the Apple Watch Series 8, and especially the Apple Watch Ultra, the reality is that many of those compromises won't matter at all to a lot of people.

What that means is that for many, the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation is the Apple Watch that you should buy if you're an iPhone owner.

Design: Simpler design, smaller watch

Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Like the 1st Gen Apple Watch, the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation comes in slightly smaller sizes than its full-fat counterpart. You can only get it in an aluminium body finish in Midnight, Starlight or Silver finishes.

If you're curious, Midnight is (more or less) the black model, Silver is as its name suggests, and Starlight, which is the model I've tested is also silver, but with a slightly gold hue imbued within it.

It's not quite as fancy as the Apple Watch Series 8, and I do think it's regrettable that Apple doesn't make the PRODUCT(RED) variant available for the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation. People who can't spend as much on a watch might like carmine hues and doing charitable work, Apple!

Apple hasn't changed the fundamental size of the Apple Watch SE since its first generation, so it's still available with either a 41mm or 44mm watch casing. That's 1mm shorter than either comparable Apple Watch Series 8 model and 5-8mm smaller than the Apple Watch Ultra.

I've grown used to the 45mm display on the Apple Watch Series 7 and Apple Watch Series 8, so when Apple sent me the 41mm Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation, I had some initial concerns about screen size.

I need not have worried because, despite the smaller screen, watchOS does a great job of representing important onscreen elements in less space.

Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

I haven't found a watchOS app that doesn't work just as well on that smaller screen, although for style reasons, I probably would opt for the 44mm model to strap on my wrist. My point here is much more than the screen size on a wearable with a fluid operating system doesn't really matter that much.

Control is via touch and the familiar "digital crown" and side button that's been part of the Apple Watch since its inception. The Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation might be the cheapest model Apple sells, but it doesn't feel cheap, and that's an important part of any watch-buying decision.

After all, buying any watch is a style choice as much as anything else – the days when that was the only way we could tell the time on the go are long behind us.

The Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation is also fully compatible with any prior 41mm or 44mm bands you may already own – or indeed, 38mm and 40mm bands for the smaller 41mm Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation or 42mm, 44mm and 45mm bands for the 44mm variant, according to Apple's own support documentation.

You can, I was pleased to discover, push it further than that. As a 45mm Apple Watch user, I had spare bands I liked a little more than the 41mm Starlight band Apple loaned me with the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation, so I experimentally tried seeing if they'd even slot into place. Which they do, at the very slight cost of having about half a millimetre of band clasp protruding from each side. It's like I'm framing the watch, which appeals to my quirky side – as well as the side that would prefer not to rebuy Apple Watch bands just because I've changed sizes.

Performance: Just as fast as the Series 8, not quite as fancy for health features

Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

The Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation runs on the same S8 processor as found in the Apple Watch Series 8 and the Apple Watch Ultra. This means that the $399 Apple Watch has the same performance metrics on a pure processor basis as the $1,299 model, which is all kinds of wild thinking.

In more practical terms, what this means is that the vast majority of Apple Watch apps and features run in the same way on the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation as they do on the pricier models.

If you opt for the cellular model and your phone plan supports it, you absolutely can use the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation standalone for making phone calls. If you've set up Apple Pay, you can use the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation as its own credit card for contactless purchases.

It's immediately a very familiar, very flexible environment that reminds me of why I like the Apple Watch over and above other smart wearables.

This might make you wonder what features are missing that you get in the fancier Apple Watch Series 8, leaving screen size and stainless-steel builds aside.

Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

There are features that you'll have to pay Apple Watch Series 8 money for that are omitted in the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation.

For a start, you don't get an always-on display, so you'll need to tap it if it's not already active when you look at it. Always-on would have been a nice inclusion given that it feels like a software feature instead of a hardware one, and it's the feature I miss most from the Apple Watch Series 8.

You don't quite get the same range and quality of sensors on the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation either. There's no blood oxygen measurement for a start, with the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation rocking Apple's older optical heart sensor as distinct from the fancier iteration found on the Series 8 and Ultra watches.

If you're in the age bracket where ECG tracking is important, it's missing from the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation.

If you're in the part of the population wishing to more precisely manage your fertility, the lack of a temperature sensor means that it's less able to track your menstrual cycles. Lacking in ovaries as I am – I blame biology for this oversight – I couldn't test this on the Apple Watch Series 8 anyway, but I understand how that's an important feature for some during their life.

The additional health features in the Apple Watch Series 8 are nice to have for specific cases, but they're not absolute must-haves for many people. The Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation covers the bases very well – essentially because it's an Apple Watch, and they've been quite good for some generations – so I do find it hard to entirely justify the extra cost of the Series 8 models unless you're already aware of heart and age issues or you're busy trying to get in the family way.

You do get the fancy new crash detection feature, which alerts family and emergency services if it detects enough forces that it identifies as part of a car crash.

Once again, I'll take Apple's word for this because while I love my job, I don't love it enough to drive my car deliberately into a wall just to see what an Apple Watch will do. I suspect my insurance company might take a dim view of such activities as well.

Battery: A small watch that over-delivers on its power promise

Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Officially speaking, the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation is rated by Apple as being good for up to 18 hours irrespective of whether you get the 41mm or 44mm variants. That's the same figure it rates the Apple Watch Series 8 for as well.

The latest (at the time of writing) upgrades to watchOS also include a low-power mode that can, Apple claims, flip that to up to 36 hours of power. You'd probably only want to invoke that if you were trying to last long enough to get to a charger. It's a nice inclusion if you do know you'll be a long while between recharge stops.

The Apple Watch Series 8 reached for its 18-hour figure, but so far in my testing, it's rarely made it quite that far, typically petering out at around the 16-hour mark and requiring daily recharges. That was for a 45mm model, and I have my serious doubts that Apple hasn't provided a bigger battery in its larger watches, despite its battery life claims.

As such, I was prepared to need my charger even faster for the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation, given that I was testing out the 41mm model.

Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

To my delight, that wasn't true. Usage can of course vary, and I can see how heavy cellular usage and a lot of GPS use (for example) could run it down faster, but I've easily been able to hit 18 hours and more on the 41mm Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation. It might just be that the always-on display on the Series 8 saps even more power than Apple would be willing to admit.

If you're after best-in-class Apple Watch battery performance, that crown is likely to be won by the $1,299 Apple Watch Ultra, but for the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation to best its pricier Series 8 sibling this way is a fine achievement.

The only downside here is that charging the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation is slower than charging an Apple Watch Series 8 or Apple Watch Ultra. Apple unhelpfully rates the Series 8 and Ultra models as "fast" charging, while the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation just has regular charging without giving too much rate information on what that means.

Anecdotally, again I've had few issues with overnight charging because that leaves it with 100% at the start of each day, which is more than enough to keep it going. If you are very low on power, the slower charging could be a concern, though.

Should you buy the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation?

  • Buy it if you want the best value Apple Watch.
  • Don't buy it if you need specific health features – or the ultra-fitness features of the Ultra watch.

For many Apple products, the cheapest model is the one with the most compromises that leaves you wanting more.

The iPhone SE 2022, for example, is a reasonable phone for its price, but its battery life and camera set-up will absolutely leave you wanting an iPhone 14 or better. That's absolutely been Apple's game plan for years because it sees itself as a boutique technology brand, and you can't get much more boutique than watches.

This makes the Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation a curious device because it actively subverts that kind of thinking.

It has all the essential parts that most users are going to want, matched up with a fast processor (for a smartwatch), a fluid operating system and great battery life, even on the smallest model.

Yes, there are features that you'll only find on the more full-fat Apple Watch Series 8, but it's well worth considering the value of those features versus the value of saving yourself a few hundred bucks and getting a truly delightful smartwatch into the bargain.

Pricing and availability

The Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation sells in Australia with pricing starting at $399, depending on case size and band choices.



Water Resistance Depth


Heart Rate

How we tested

Apple loaned me a Starlight case 41mm Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation for the purposes of review. Because I like the comparison of ridiculous sizes (and because I was testing it concurrently), I paired it with an iPhone 14 Pro Max. I tested it over a week, using it for notifications, health and fitness tracking and music playback extensively.

As a reviewer, I have more than 2 decades of tech product reviewing under my belt, including extensive experience with every prior Apple Watch generation. I'm a multi-time Australian IT journo award winner, including awards for best reviewer and best technical journalist.

Go to site